More than Crackers & Grape Juice

Francis Chan has recently been the focus of much Evangelical ire due to a recent sermon where he appears to be not only decrying the memorialist position of the Lord’s Supper (also known as The Holy Communion) but also makes a rather spurious claim that over a millennium the church’s normative view of the Sacrament was that the bread and wine were the actual body and blood of Christ (Transubstantiation).

(Here is the link to the clip also)

Evangelicals were critical of Chan, concerned that he is about to cross the Tiber, Roman Catholics were excited that is about to cross the Tiber. However, Chan has touched on a subject that I think Evangelicals do well to consider; that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is more than merely “have crackers and grape juice and remember Jesus”.

I remember last year visiting an Anglican church in another diocese and attending a Holy Communion Service. When it came to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the clergy did the right things, they said the right things, but they came across almost apologetic about it, as if this was something they had to do and worked hard to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Their hearts were not in it.

Were they embarrassed? Why did they seem to treat the command of the Lord Jesus as perfunctory? I could not work it out at the time. But a question that comes to mind when reflecting on the Lord’s Supper is this:

Why do many of us Protestants dumb-down the supper of the Lord? Why do we take it for granted as we seem to, that it appears to be of secondary and/or of minor importance? Why do we appear to treat the Lord’s Supper as mere preliminaries to the main event (which of course is preaching)?

Don’t get me wrong, without the faithful proclaiming and expounding of the Holy Scriptures, the Sacrament loses its meaning, for it is on the platform of the Word of God that the Sacraments stand. Or to put it another way, the Lord’s Supper (like the sacrament of Baptism) is an enacted form of the Word of God itself. However, the Lord’s Supper, should it be treated as an appendix that we apologise for? Should our expectations be higher than what they appear to be in some Evangelical Anglican circles?

Bishop Julian Dobbs (who is a Conservative Reformed Evangelical Bishop of the Diocese of the Living Word) states:

The trouble is that we have been shaped more than we know by a superficial and reactionary tradition that there is wisdom in not making too much of the Lord’s Supper. The idea that in Christian worship that this sacrament is of secondary importance is more wrong than right.

I believe that Bishop Dobb’s is onto something here.

The Anglican view is that the Lord’s Supper is a little more than a memorial, (for the RCC it is a lot more than a memorial). The Reformers deny transubstantiation as seeing it as being not scriptural however they saw that Lord’s Supper is not just about drinking juice, eating crackers and thinking about Jesus. In the Lord’s Supper, something is going on spiritually – sanctification, growth.

A Sanctifying Sacrament: The Lord’s Supper sanctifies God’s people. Contrary to the Roman Catholic position (which views the Lord’s Supper as a Justifying sacrament), Justification has been granted by grace through faith in Christ (which we have already have received). But we are works in progress, we need to grow in Christ, and become more like him, we need to be sanctified. The Lord’s Supper sanctifies us. Article XXV states:

Article XXV 

Of the Sacraments

The Sacraments were not ordained by Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect and operation…”

The Lord’s Supper is a memorial but more than a mere memorial, perhaps the term Effectual Memorial is an apt descriptor.

Article 28 of the 39 Articles:

Article XXVIII

Of the Lord’s Supper

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

The Lord’s Supper is a sign and a memorial but it is also more. There is a two-fold action that takes place when a person receives the Lord’s Supper; with both aspects being defined by faith and knowledge in Christ:

1 – Our action – deliberate remembering, calling him to mind, joyfully contemplating him, praising him, praying to him.

2 –  God’s action – renewing our gratitude for grace, our confidence in forgiveness by grace, our hope for glory, and our strength for service, all by the Holy Spirit. Christ is alive and with us now in resurrection power by the Holy Spirit, he is the true minister each time the supper is celebrated. The Supper is about Him.

We should think of the bread and wine as coming to us by the hand of Christ himself and his guarantee to us in love, he will nourish us spiritually forever.

This distinguishes the Anglican position from the Memorialist position (the position of Zwingli) and from the Roman Catholic transubstantiation position.

Why taking the Lord’s Supper is always good for God’s people

The symbolic routine of repeatedly sharing bread and wine made significant by Jesus’ words witnesses to the two most far-reaching events in world history; both past and future:

The Past –  Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross, which opened the gate of eternal life for all who believe.

The Future –  Jesus return (for universal judgment) and the remaking of the entire cosmos at which time sacramental rites will be no more “With this bread and wine, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Just as everyday eating and drinking brings physical nourishment to our bodies, the ritual eating and drinking that Christ prescribed brings spiritual nourishment to us.

Bishop Dobbs again states:

From this union, through the Holy Spirit, spiritual vitality flows into each one of us; health and strength for devotion and service; inner resources of love, ability and power that we continue to discover in our lives by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

The author of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Cranmer knew this and he was also cognisant of the Apostolic warning given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29:

[27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. [28] Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. [30] That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

The issue is what Paul says in v.29 – Without discerning the body.

My take is that it is usually understood in one of two ways.

  1. Without discerning the body: “not understanding that the bread represents the body of Christ that was sacrificed for us,” with the result that such people do not act in a Christlike, self-sacrificial way.
  2. Without discerning the body: “not recognising the spiritual reality of what is happening at the Lord’s Supper, and therefore they are acting in a way that dishonours Christ.

Whatever one’s view is, the warning from Paul are words not to forget in a hurry nor dismiss easily. We take our lives into our hands when we come to the table. That is why we examine our hearts, why we repent of our wickedness, why we don’t participate in this sacrament if we are not repentant and if we have not come before the Lord to turn our lives from sin towards Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the Gospel given to us by Christ himself, an outward visible sign, (the bread and wine), of an inward and spiritual grace given to us by Christ himself. While we must remember the Lord Jesus Christ, (what He has done, and what He is going to do), it is much much more than remembering. For coming to the table you have a meal not only with one another but with the Lord Jesus. Yes the Lord Jesus is not physically present (for He has ascended to the Father) but He is present by His Holy Spirit.

So much more than Crackers and grape juice.

Smoke… and… Mirrors


Smoke and Mirrors – noun 

an explanation or description that is not true or not complete and is used to hide the truth about a situation:

This week the ABC ran a piece highlighting the Bishop of Wangaratta, John Parkes’ enthusiasm in regards to conducting same-sex blessings before he lays down his Bishop’s pastoral staff at the end of the year. I thought this was rather strange as last year the Anglican Bishops (and I assume +Parkes was present) made an historic agreement, an agreement that states (Responding to Recent Changes in the Marriage Act)

We, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, affirm the following.

Guiding principles

1. The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together, recognising that this will require care, persistence and generosity. The bishops commit to working together to manifest and maintain unity, as we together discern the truth.

Thus the Bishops agree that they will uphold the traditional view of marriage and if any change to this doctrine is to be attempted, due process will be followed.

Thus the Bishop of Wangaratta publicly stating his intention to “bless” homosexual couples who are legally married in the eyes of the Australian marriage act seems to be in breach of this agreement and in fact I would say that it obviously is. Of course, technically speaking he is not in breach of the agreement, technically speaking, he would not be marrying homosexual couples; “blessing the persons and not the relationship”; so technically speaking he is still upholding the doctrine of the Anglican Church which states that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

The practice of clergy conducting same-sex blessings are:

Based on a lie – the lie being that God approves of sexual expression couples of the same gender when Scripture is abundantly clear that He does not. In fact, every time homosexual sexual expression is mentioned, the context is always negative. Clergy who conduct such blessings are being false witnesses, they are saying God’s blesses what God’s Word says is sin. Scripture is clear, God will not bless, sustain, and encourage couples in sin.

Based on a false Gospel – a gospel of no repentance. Scripture is clear that homosexual sexual expression is evidential of rebellion against God and sign of God giving people over to judgment as a result of the aforementioned rebellion. Romans 1:18-32 is crystal clear on this. However, by ‘blessings such a union, Anglican clergy, (Bishop or otherwise) ‘blessing’  in essence, are sending a message that says the gospel consists of “come as you are and stay as you are”; which is not the message of the Gospel.

Are deceptive –  Anglican bishops who find it desirous to conduct same-sex blessings of couples who are married in the eyes of the state, know that what they are doing is not conducting a marriage. They know that what the Bible teaches regarding marriage will do all they can to push the boundaries but not technically breach them so that they cannot be held to account. Thus these so-called “blessings” will be treated as a marriage but technically will not be a marriage (because technically, they are already married). By all human appearances the services will appear to be like a wedding, they will be treated as a wedding, but technically will not be a wedding.

Are coercive History has shown us that in every denomination, every issue of a Biblically untenable nature that revisionists have desired and have had granted to them has led to coercion from revisionists towards those who disagree when they are in positions of authority. They use the rhetoric of being “a broad church”, but their diversity and tolerance is only extended to those who agree with them and/or acquiesce to their position.

Example – The Church of Scotland:  Decades ago, the General Assembly of the Kirk passed the ordinance that women could be ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The shift went from a woman could be ordained to, a woman should be ordained. When the decision came to pass, the official view in time moved from women should be ordained to women must be ordained.

Notice the progression:

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

So in practice, those who in good conscience do not hold to women’s ordination are excluded from the discernment process for ordination within the Church of Scotland.

This revisionist tactic is unstated, yet it is far from subtle, though is not unique to the Scottish Kirk. It occurs within the Anglican Church. When women’s ordination came about there was the same talk from revisionists saying “oh yes, those disagree are free to disagree, etc” and, “It won’t divide the church”, etc. However it has divided the Anglican Church, and women’s ordination is often used by revisionists bishops as a way of preventing orthodox clergy coming into their dioceses, thus in practice, clergy are not free to disagree if they wish to serve in the said dioceses. An orthodox Anglican cleric/candidate approaches a diocese about being licensed/ordained/accepted for discernment. All a revisionist bishop need to do end the process before it begins is to ask them what they think of Women’s ordination.

If they don’t agree with Women’s ordination they are told:

“Sorry, I don’t think it is God’s will for you to serve in our diocese as it would not be a good fit for you”.

It is the same coercive progression:

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

Although women’s ordination is in my view, not a first-order issue, there is every reason to believe that if the Anglican Church of Australia goes down the same road with same-sex blessings (which is a gospel issue), the same tactic will be employed. An orthodox Anglican cleric/candidate approaches a diocese about being licensed/  being ordained/accepted for discernment. All a revisionist bishop need to do end the process is to ask them “What is your view of same-sex blessings?” or “Do you think you could work in a diocese that conducts same-sex blessings?” Instead of the onus being on the Bishop for endorsing a view and praxis that is antithetical to Scripture, it is placed on the person being asked the question and if they say they don’t agree, predictably they will be told…(here it comes)

“Sorry, I don’t think it is God’s will for you to serve in our diocese as it would not be a good fit for you”.

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

Revisionists bishops who resort to this tactic may say, “technically I have done no wrong”; Bishop Parkes may think or state that he will not be violating the Bishop’s agreement by stating his intention to conduct same-sex blessings, and say “Technically, I have done no wrong”.

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

Remind me of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20

This is the way of an adulteress:
    she eats and wipes her mouth
    and says, “I have done no wrong.”


Smoke… and… Mirrors.



Doing the Thinking For Them

I have a hunch that when it comes to Christians proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to non-Christians, part of our reluctance to share the Gospel with them is that we assume one of four things about the non-Christian. They will:

  1. Be offended
  2. Not Understand
  3. Experience discomfort
  4. Combination of all three

So we do the thinking for them and decide not to say anything.

I wonder if we carry this assumption into our gathering together to worship God in Word and Sacrament, that when we invite them to an outreach event, or even to our regular Sunday services that make those same assumptions. That the non-Christian will:

  1. Be offended
  2. Not Understand
  3. Experience discomfort
  4. Combination of all three

I remember many years ago now, an article was produced by a well known Evangelical Anglican body here in my country (Australia) and the article stated that we should, in essence, drop any language that may be deemed too exclusive. So words like ‘lecturn’, ‘pulpit’, ‘pew’ should go. The reason we should do this is for the sake of the outsider feeling, we don’t want to make them uncomfortable. So everything we do at church should be as normal and regular for the non-Christian as possible.

However, do we really assume that de-churched or even un-churched people are going to be uncomfortable by terms such as ‘sermon’ or ‘lectern’ or offended by such terminology?

Once I dropped the word ‘verse’ when referring to Scripture, I replaced it with the word ‘sentence’ in order to try and be contemporary. Even though I thought changing ‘verse’ to ‘sentence’ felt artificial and strange, I was acting on the assumption that the non-Christian would find the word ‘verse’ archaic or discomforting so that assumption prevailed over common sense and I did it anyway. It was a dumb move!

I also think the same when it comes to changing other terms. I had never heard of a lectern or even seen one before I went to church, I did not know what a baptismal font was, or what a prayer book was, nor did I know what the Lord’s table was. But it did not turn me off. I assumed that this was part and parcel of church and what Christians did and said.

Imagine this scenario:

Hi welcome to chu…our gathering…ahhhmmmmm…I mean our meeting…our family (no that sounds like a cult) ahhmmm our fellowshi…our assembly…arghh! (Starts again). Welcome to church everyone. If you would like to turn page (inset page no.) of the Prayer boo…I mean ahhh the book that has prayers in it. We are going to pra…talk to God…and ask give him thanks…that means we are going to thank God…he is the one who made us and created us…

  Skip forward in service…

 We are now going to sing a hymn…I mean song…it is like a song but the music is really quite bad and we don’t believe in syncopation…and then Morag is going to come up and is going to lead us in prayer…I mean ahhh…she is going to talk to God out the front in the lecte…pulpi…she is going to talk to God and stand in front of this wooden stand that I am standing behind right now.

Skip forward in the service…

We are going to have our Bible readi…if you would like to pick up that big thick book that has the words Holy Bible on it, and turn to (insert book, chapter, verse) and after this our Minister…no he is not a politician, he is not that kind of minister, our pasto…the man who runs the show…not that it is a show…the minister and he is going to give the serm…ahhhmmmm…I mean the talk…ahhhmmmm yes I know I am talking to you know…he is going to explain what that passage…I mean…ahhhmmm… he is going to explain that pericope…explain those words that were read out of that big thick book that has the words Holy Bible on the front cover.. ,and then he is going to preach…I mean teach…I mean explain how it applies to us so that we can…he is going to unpack it for us so that we do life together! Ahhhmmmm yes I know that the expression “do life” is ridiculous…what I mean is…”

Coming from a non-Christian family when I first attended an Anglican church service as a young teen service I did not know what anything was, what the words meant or what things were called. But the church would really have done me a disservice if they did not use the terminology that is indicative of church and terms such as propitiation, lectern, pew, sermon, etc. It is how I learned. It is how everybody learns. All these little things I found attractive, and especially the message of Christ crucified and risen from the dead, along with the people I met whose lives had been transformed by Him.

Non-Churched people are not stupid (not that I am implying that the article I read years ago was suggesting this), they will expect Church to be different. We should be clear of course, but I think to ‘over-contemporise’ will come across by the un-churched as us being try-hards. We don’t need to do the thinking for them.